Sherry Elmer's Reviews > The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry

The Art of the Commonplace by Wendell Berry
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I highly recommend this thoughtful book of essays to fans of Wendell Berry and to everyone who is interested in ideas of community, environment, or agriculture. Read it with a pen nearby; there will be a lot you want to copy.
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Quotes Sherry Liked

Wendell Berry
“To live, we must daily break the body and shed the blood of Creation. When we do this knowingly, lovingly, skillfully, reverently, it is a sacrament. When we do it ignorantly, greedily, clumsily, destructively, it is a desecration. In such desecration we condemn ourselves to spiritual and moral loneliness, and others to want.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“The industrial revolution has held in contempt not only the 'obsolete skills' of those classes, but the concern for quality, for responsible workmanship and good work, that supported their skills. For the principle of good work it substituted a secularized version of the heroic tradition: the ambition to be a 'pioneer' of science or technology, to make a 'breakthrough' that will 'save the world' from some 'crisis' (which now is usually the result of some previous 'breakthrough').
The best example we have of this kind of hero, I am afraid, is the fallen Satan of Paradise Lost--Milton having undoubtedly having observed in his time the prototypes of industrial heroism. This is a hero who instigates and influences the actions of others, but does not act himself. His heroism is of the mind only--escaped as far as possible, not only from divine rule, from its place in the order of creation or the Chain of Being, but also from the influence of material creation:

A mind not to be chang'd by Place or Time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav'n of Hell, a Hell of Heav'n

This would-be heroism is guilty of two evils that are prerequisite to its very identity: hubris and abstraction. The industrial hero supposes that 'mine own mind hath saved me'--and moreover that it may save the world. Implicit in this is the assumption that one's mind is one's own, and that it may choose its own place in the order of things; one usurps divine authority, and thus, in classic style, becomes the author of results that one can neither foresee nor control.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“The hill is like an old woman, all her human obligations met, who sits at work day after day, in a kind of rapt leisure, at an intricate embroidery. She has time for all things. Because she does not expect ever to be finished, she is endlessly patient with details. She perfects flower and leaf, feather and song, adorning the briefest life in great beauty as though it were meant to last forever.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“At this point, I want to say point-blank what I hope is already clear: though agrarianism proposes that everybody has agrarian responsibilities, it does not propose that everybody should be a farmer or that we do not need cities. Nor does it propose that every product be a necessity. Furthermore, any thinkable human economy would have to grant to manufacturing an appropriate and honorable place. Agrarians would insist only that any manufacturing enterprise should be formed and scaled to fit the local landscape, the local ecosystem, and the local community, and that it should be locally owned and employ local people. They would insist, in other words, that the shop or factory owner should not be an outsider, but rather a sharer in the fate of the place and the community. The deciders should live with the results of their decisions.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“Between these two programs---the industrial and the agrarian, the global and the local---the most critical difference is that of knowledge. The global economy institutionalizes a global ignorance, in which producers and consumers cannot know or care about one another, and in which the histories of all products will be lost. In such circumstances, the degradation of products and places, producers and consumers, is inevitable.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“...the basic cause of the energy crisis is not scarcity; it is moral ignorance and weakness of character.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

Wendell Berry
“It is well established among us that you may hold up your head in polite society with a public lie in your mouth or other people's money in your pocket or innocent blood on your hands, but not with dishwater on your hands or mud on your shoes.”
Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays


Reading Progress

December 13, 2016 – Started Reading
January 13, 2017 – Shelved
January 29, 2017 – Shelved as: 2017
January 29, 2017 – Shelved as: essential-reading
January 29, 2017 – Shelved as: favorite-authors
January 29, 2017 – Shelved as: the-world-we-live-in
January 29, 2017 – Shelved as: thinking-authors
January 29, 2017 – Shelved as: worth-reading-again
January 29, 2017 – Shelved as: essays
January 29, 2017 – Finished Reading

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